Local Stories: The Hole in the Wall

Ireland’s pubs are world renowned for their welcoming atmosphere and memorable characters. In Kilkenny City, there’s a place which is more unforgettable than most. At The Hole in the Wall heritage is preserved, new talent is encouraged – and storytelling thrives.
Kilkenny Castle

Hear The Hole in the Wall Story

Hear The Hole in the Wall Story
A cardiologist with a deep interest in arts, culture and Irish history, Michael Conway was walking through Kilkenny when the walls whispered to him. “I looked in through an archway and I saw this old building. Something said, ‘you should buy that’...” and the rest is history.

Quite an extensive history, in fact. Built in 1582, The Hole in the Wall actually pre-dates Trinity College Dublin – back in the 1790s, it was the most popular tavern in Ireland. There are plenty of original oak beams (from trees which would have started growing at least a thousand years ago) – the floor downstairs, the four walls, all of the lime plaster, mortar, and stone are as they've been for centuries. Reaching back even further into the mists of time, the pub comes complete with its very own standing stone – a signature of the civilisation which existed in the area many millennia ago.
The Hole in the Wall's owner telling tales to a spellbound audience
Sign at The Hole in the Wall
Portrait of The Hole in the Wall's proprietor, Michael Conway
Left: Telling tales to a spellbound audience | Middle: Welcome to The Hole in the Wall | Right: The proprietor, Michael Conway
Fast forward to the turn of the twenty-first century: taking on this renovation project and thinking it would last a couple of years, Michael re-enlivened the building’s unique heritage – in a process which actually took a decade to complete.

An enthusiastic member of the local arts and culture scene, he describes Kilkenny as a “cauldron of artistic endeavour and output” – and the now-revitalised pub is used to showcase musicians and host immersive storytelling evenings. The performers all add to the story: “The music here is driven by the house. There’s an energy in this house – it’s probably recorded in the walls.”
A performer at Kilkenny's Cat Laughs festival
Windows at The Hole in the Wall
Musicians entertaining guests at The Hole in the Wall
Left: Culture in Kilkenny | Middle: One of The Hole in the Wall's many original features | Right: A live music session at the pub
Along with its vibrant arts community, the area’s heritage is endlessly fascinating to Michael. A key place to take guests is Kilkenny Castle, there since the 1200s: “People come because of the castle, but around it is this neckace of wonderful antiquity – a lot of it is intact.” He often escorts visitors to the Medieval Mile Museum in the former St Mary’s Church. While they're viewing the exhibits, they can also take a moment to pay their respects at the graves of the Archer family – the Archers having built the mansion where The Hole in the Wall now resides.

Michael then brings them out into the county, taking in the Castlecomer Discovery Park, enjoying the walk along the River Nore, and exploring Jerpoint Abbey and Park – “it grabs your soul when you go there.”
Kilkenny Castle interior view
The River Nore flowing through Kilkenny City
Visitors in the Medieval Mile Museum in Kilkenny
Left: Inside Kilkenny Castle | Middle: The River Nore flowing through Kilkenny City | Right: The Medieval Mile Museum
Michael welcomes visitors from all over the globe, many of whom stumble upon the pub in the course of their Kilkenny wanderings. He says about half of them “happen to see the sign and venture down the alley.”

However they find the place, a special experience awaits. Though many aspects of The Hole in the Wall have remained unchanged for centuries, no two visits will be the same – entertainment is tailored to the guests present on any given evening. “Stories stretch and range from the actual history of the house itself, to the history of where they’re going on their Ireland’s Ancient East tours. Everybody gets to know everybody – and at the end of the night, we have them all singing.”


There’s so much to do in Kilkenny, you’ll want to stay for a while to take it all in.
Enjoy your escape in Ireland's Ancient East!

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check out the See & Do section